Poet’s prose checks out in su­per­mar­ket

The Leader (Tasman) - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - TIM O'CON­NELL

A Nel­son man’s love of po­etry has won him ad­mi­ra­tion from all corners, in­clud­ing the food aisles of his lo­cal su­per­mar­ket.

John Oliver has been writ­ing and per­form­ing his works for the last 15 years.

He said his love of lit­er­a­ture and the spo­ken word stemmed from his child­hood in Eng­land, where his par­ents made sure he was equipped with the best ma­te­rial pos­si­ble.

‘‘At five years of age when I first started go­ing to school, the oth­ers in the class didn’t know what I was talk­ing about be­cause I was read­ing Shake­speare,’’ he said.

‘‘My mother and fa­ther used to al­ways say, ‘read, Johnny, read you’ll never re­gret it’ - well, you bet your life I haven’t re­gret­ted it.’’

The sub­ject mat­ter of his po­ems vary from a light-hearted ode to the for­mer own­ers of the Ko­hatu Ho­tel to some deeper mus­ings as well as per­sonal events in his life.

Ev­ery poem had a mean­ing, Oliver said, al­though some back­sto­ries he pre­ferred to keep to him­self.

The 87-year-old kept his po­ems in a black suit­case along­side pho­tos and sou­venirs from his many trav­els through­out the years.

By his own ad­mis­sion, re­mem­ber­ing ev­ery line can be a strug­gle at his age. For­tu­nately,

‘‘We were both reach­ing for a jar of honey and I got talk­ing with her - the con­ver­sa­tion got round to po­etry and men­tioned I said I wrote my own.’’

John Oliver

most of his works have been put to print and lam­i­nated to pro­long their longevity.

How­ever, he was al­ways happy to ‘‘rat­tle off’’ a verse to any­one who would ap­pre­ci­ate it, in­clud­ing one woman who he gave an im­promptu read­ing to while shop­ping in Count­down on St Vin­cent St last month.

‘‘We were both reach­ing for a jar of honey and I got talk­ing with her the con­ver­sa­tion got round to po­etry and men­tioned I said I wrote my own,’’ he said.

‘‘She asked if I’d re­cite one - so I did - and she said ‘‘that was beau­ti­ful.’’

Four weeks on, Oliver was hope­ful of see­ing his new fan again purely for the pur­poses of shar­ing a mu­tual ap­pre­ci­a­tion for prose.

‘‘I was think­ing the other day that I’d love to see her again.’’

PHOTO: TIM O’CON­NELL/ FAIRFAX NZ

Nel­son man John Oliver and two of his many po­ems.

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